“Do you know what happen to your blood samples once it is drawn?”
High chances that most people will respond by saying that the doctor tested the samples in the laboratory. Medical Technologist (Med Tech) is one of the least informed occupations in the healthcare industry; hence the general population is embroiled into much ignorance and confusion to their job responsibilities.
Here are the top three myths that the general population believes.
1. Technologist = technician?
To most people, technologist is synonymously a technician since operating machines and technologies are our staple. Trust me; they are very different as one of them is pronounced with one more syllabus (Just for Laughs – pun intended).
Jokes aside, a technician and a technologist differ in their educational levels and hierarchical responsibilities, with the technician working under the command of a technologist. A technologist is the specialist of a technology while the technician operates according to the advice of a technologist. Hence to most Med Techs, being labelled as a technician is a form of down-grade; akin to saying a nurse is a phlebotomist, although drawing blood samples from patients are within their job scope.
Our role as a Med Tech, is to “date” our analyzers. Not literally though, because we are not obligated to marry it. We need to love our analyzers, giving them good care (calibration and maintenance), because if we don’t, they will demand attention (giving erroneous QC results and breakdown). Hence we need to shower (periodic sterilisation and cleaning) them with love. As the saying goes, the way to get your partner’s heart is through the stomach, hence the need to prepare the finest food (reagents) for them too. Additionally, the key to having a loving relationship is to understand your partner, similarly, we need to “undress” the analyzer and understand its set-up to avoid stepping on its “tail”. As humans, we do occasionally frustrate our partners, hence tantrums (QC and Calibration failure) will result, we will then need to coax it attentively (troubleshoot). Reciprocally, the analyzer will also communicate with us lovingly by transmitting quality clinical data. *Note: Please take this with a pinch of salt.
Hey! Med Techs are the specialist of our analysers and we do understand them well.
2. Performing Sophisticated Experiments
There is a common belief that we perform elaborate experiments to obtain results since we work in a laboratory. This is probably due to the fact that the closest encounters with science for most city dwellers were performing experiments in a laboratory back in their school days. Mixing chemicals together to get the desired results (... or maybe unexpected “explosions” at times) were the common scenarios back then.
In due fact, obtaining clinical results requires pipetting, triturating and incubating of multiple specially formulated reagents with patient samples (blood or urine usually...). Truthfully, it is definitely not possible to perform these time-consuming mundane tasks for each sample if a laboratory has to handle samples in the “hundreds” bracket. With the ever-advancing technologies, these monotonous tasks are all performed in an analyser or instrument. In other words, the analyser is a robot like Med Tech who will perform all the manual procedures and then generate the clinical data. A Med Tech will make sure results produced from the analyzers make clinical sense and entering the necessary clinical comments before “releasing” it to the doctor. Nonetheless, there are some clinical tests that require intricate experimental procedures to obtain clinical results though.
Fantasies are a far cry from realities...
3. Factory Robots
Some people think that Med Techs are akin to an assembly line of factory robots. In their perspectives, Med techs rely on a flow diagram to perform our duties. If the answer to this is yes, do this, if no, do this. This is often referred to as "kitchen chemistry". The Med Tech follows stringently on the "recipe" or process to perform clinical tests.
The typical kitchen chemistry recipe we religiously follow in evaluating anaemia.
Admittedly this stereotyping is hard to object. We do have strict sets of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to follow religiously. These SOPs are designed in a way to speed up our processing time instead of thinking what should we do next in certain scenarios. It is also composed in a redundant fail safe way to prevent any ambiguous decisions made. Mistakes in our job is highly undesirable, as erroneous results might lead to lethal health impacts on the patients once the doctors make misguided medical decisions.
*Mistakes in laboratory may have significant impact on patient: Imagine a situation where a patient has healthy levels of iron in his blood; however the Med Tech reported severely low iron levels. The doctor’s immediate response will be to ramp up the iron levels intensively which will result in the patient succumbing into fatal iron poisoning.
But no, Med techs aren’t robots, we are still humans made up of flesh and blood. You can't blame us for memorizing our physiological principles so fluently. SOPs are just official documents to govern our experimental rationality, however as science advances, we constantly evaluate the efficiency of our processes and make the necessary improvements. So don’t call us robots!
Disclaimer: Any views or opinions presented in this post are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company or manufacturer. The author accepts no liability for the content of this post, or for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of the information provided.